It was suggested to us that as we were taking a boat across to Bellagio that we might consider having lunch at one of the local islands. Very unique and accessible only by boat, the island is dedicated only to the restaurant, terrace and bar. It is considered a local landmark, but most tourists would pass by unaware of its existence. That said, the likes of Joan Baez, Gina Lollibridgida, Brad Pitt, Richard Branson and George Clooney have dined there.
The menu is a set one, with multiple courses. The interesting thing is that the menu has been unchanged since 1947. As our host Benvenuto Pipuricelli tells us "we have been serving with success since 1947."
So, lunch consisted of the following:
Antipasto all'isolana - sliced tomato with a slice of lemon, drizzled with oil, with salt and oregano added. Then a variety of vegetables depending on what is in season. Mostly pickled or served cold with vinegar...carrot, cauliflower, capsicum, celery, white beans, spinach, all except for the baked onion and beet root. To this, on separate plates, we're added a slab of fresh ham, plus wafer thin slices of home cured air dried beef. Served with "friendly" bread to soak up the oil and vinegar.
Trota alla contrabbandiera - fresh grilled salmon trout. One large fish between two, the cooked trout is skinned, dissected and served at the table. Salt is added, then olive oil and lemon juice.
Rottami di pollo in padella - fried, free range chicken opened and "crushed", served with lettuce drizzled in vinegar.
Granada all'escavadora - Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is cut from the wheel and a slab placed in your hand.
Arance alla castellana - when available, oranges are used, however we had pear slices. This is served with a huge serve of delicious vanilla gelato, all covered with an orange Licquer. This combined with the bottle of white wine we were given made for a tipsy Tammy as lunch progressed.
Caffe all'uso delle can agile in armi - a concoction of brandy burnt in the pot with sugar and coffee added. This is the pomp and circumstance part of the meal where Benvenuto tells the history of the island....which, being in Italian, really did sound like a prayer, albeit a long one.
Benvenuto looks the part sporting a white shirt, tartan waistcoat and at a particular point in the proceedings adds a multicolored, striped beanie to his attire. I think this too is part of the custom since 1947. Apparently Vidulfo the bishop of Como, Placed a curse on the island in 1169. Benvenuto keeps bad omens at bay by having a fire kiting ceremony, complete with prayer and lots of brandy added to coffee as a way of finishing your visit.